A 33-year-old North Thompson woman who shot her husband to death at a Vavenby campsite in 2020 had her bail revoked and was taken into custody following sentencing arguments in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on Monday (March 13).
Ashleigh Tschritter of Clearwater will remain in custody while Justice Joel Groves decides on a sentence for her manslaughter conviction in December 2022, a verdict brought down by a jury after she had been originally charged with second-degree murder.
Tschritter has so far accumulated 654 days of credit for time served, based on being under house arrest for 436 pre-sentence days (pre-sentence time served is calculated at 1.5 days for every day). The time she spends behind bars between now and when Justice Groves levies a sentence — scheduled for April 3 — will also be applied to that time in prison.
Crown is asking for a sentence of six to 10 years, while the defence is suggesting a sentence in the range of three to five years.
On Dec. 1, 2022, Tschritter was convicted of manslaughter after a jury found her guilty of killing her husband, 39-year-old David Simpson on Sept. 6, 2020. The family had been camping down a remote forest service road near Vavenby when the shooting occurred.
Crown counsel Tim Livingston and Danika Heighes introduced several case studies in their sentencing arguments. Livingston reviewed the outcomes from several manslaughter convictions, outlining incidents where offenders exhibited remorse, were of old age, were of good character or had unburdened families of victims by entering guilty pleas, saving them impact from a trial. He argued Tschritter failed to exhibit signs of remorse throughout the trial and had not yet taken responsibility for her actions, in spite of the jury’s manslaughter verdict.
Livingston then introduced Tschritter’s criminal record for obstructing justice, aggravated assault, robbery and numerous breaches of probation, including fatally shooting Simpson while being prohibited from owning or accessing firearms.
Simpson’s mother, Patricia LeBlanc, attended Tschritter’s sentencing remotely via video from Alberta and submitted a victim impact statement, outlining concerns for the safety of her grandchildren and herself.
“I’ve lost my only child,” Livingston told court as he read LeBlanc’s victim impact statement. “This has devastated my life and those of my grandchildren. I’m worried about the state of my grandchildren and I have concerns about their safety and well-being. I have a broken heart that will never heal.”
LeBlanc added that she has needed ongoing counselling and anti-depressants since her son was slain.
Livingston introduced a secondary victim impact statement from Melissa and James Woodrow, who are the guardians of the children of Tschritter and Simpson, outlining that the children collectively suffer from nightmares, dissociative behaviours, anger, self-harm and guilt. The Woodrows, who said they are godparents to the children, indicated all three children have post-traumatic stress disorder and find contact with their mother triggering.
“These poor children have continuously relived the nightmare of their dad’s death since we got them in our care,” the couples’ letter reads. “They felt closer to their dad than their mom, so the situation has had a devastating effect. David loved his children deeply and it’s awful that they had to see their dad in that way.”
The letter indicates that a mental-health professional deemed the effects of witnessing such an event would be long-lasting and difficult to overcome for the three children.
Defence lawyers Bobby Movassaghi Bianca Kendregan submitted three letters of character references for Tschritter, and Tschritter also submitted a statement to Groves too. However, these four submissions were not read out loud in court.
Movassaghi told Groves that Tschritter — prior to having her bail revoked and placed in custody on March 13 as she awaits her sentence — had taken steps to gain employment, regularly visited a counsellor and was taking medication for bipolar disorder. He added Tschritter’s previous criminal history was a result of substance misuse, noting she was in a series of foster homes and began using drugs at the age of 13, when she moved in with a man who was 31 years old.
Movassaghi said the 33-year-old Tschritter was 20 when she was last convicted for a violent offence, the mugging and serious assault of a university student in Chilliwack in 2010. When sentencing Tschritter to 14 months in 2012, Justice Brian Joyce cited Tschritter’s lack of remorse in the attack that left the victim in hospital with a fractured skull and numerous other injuries.
Tschritter’s mother, Alysha, told court her grandchildren — the three children of Tschritter and Simpson — don’t experience nightmares as frequently as the Woodrows’ victim impact statement suggests, adding some of these symptoms began before their father’s death.
“The loss of Dave has been a big impact for our family, especially for the grandchildren who lost not only their father, but also their mother,” Alysha told court, requesting placement of her daughter in the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge so she may visit her daughter regularly.
Justice Groves expressed concern that Tschritter maintains her innocence despite being convicted of manslaughter.
During the trial, court heard that at the time of the shooting, Tschritter told emergency responders that her husband had shot himself. However, an autopsy indicated that the muzzle of the shotgun wound was not touching Simpson’s skin.
Gary Flowers, a friend of the couple who was camping with them, testified Tschritter and Simpson had been drinking and arguing, with Tschritter getting upset when Simpson mentioned another woman. Flowers testified that Tschritter left the group and returned later, holding a shotgun and aiming it at Simpson before shooting him.
When Groves asked if there was anything she wanted to add before sentencing occurs, Tschritter said she was remorseful and recognized the impact on people from many areas of her life, before awkwardly pausing.
“I would’ve traded spots with him,” she said in reference to her deceased husband.
– Written by Breanne Massey of Kamloops This Week